That the brain is capable of developing when stimulated in the right manner has been known for long. Research surrounding language learning and the brain is now helping uncover what language learning does to the brain as well as telling us what can help when it comes to learning a new language.
Research has gone to show that learning a different language develops the brain in a manner which is similar to what exercising does to muscles. It also points to the notion that people who learn a second language earlier in life have better developed grey matter in comparison to those who did the same later in life.
Age, Language Learning, and the Brain:
As you grow older, learning a new language will become more challenging, and at some point in life, addressing certain nuances could well become impossible. This is simply because our brain develops as we grow, and at some point, it even starts to deteriorate.
It is believed that a that a baby in between 9 – 12 months of age loses the capability to differentiate between sounds which are not a part of his/her native tongue. After around 4 years of age, children find it hard to grasp the morphology of a new language. By around 7, more attention is paid to what is being learnt, and this has an effect on the kind of memory used in learning a language.
Post puberty, mastering a language and speaking without a ‘foreign’ accent becomes quite unlikely, although what you should know is that there really is no cut off point when it comes to learning the vocabulary of a language.
The Brain Continues to Learn:
One of the brain’s most basic functions is to learn and it continues doing so until it functions properly. Given the brain’s plasticity and its ability to create neurons and neural connections, one can learn a language in late in life. While it would be more challenging than having done it in one’s younger years, it will also have a positive impact on the brain. Understand that the brain responds well to stimulus, and as long as you are subjecting your brain to interesting and relevant content, learning a new language can be accomplished even during adulthood.
What Will Help?
There are several things which can help your brain in learning a language, and although these might seem simple enough, they go a long way in terms of effectiveness.
- Ensure spending time in learning the language on an ongoing basis, and this is not limited to actual learning but would also include immersion activities like watching movies, reading, listening to music, etc. This, ideally, should be done on a day-to-day basis as it will give your brain constant exposure to the language in question.
- Work on building your vocabulary and address grammatical aspects from the beginning as this will allow your brain to identify similarities and patterns which help simplify the process.
- Do not push your brain beyond its limit by trying to accomplish too much too soon, and remember that your brain requires its fair share of rest.
So, if you wish to learn a new language and are wondering if your brain is up to the challenge, you could well be surprised. After all, with motivation and the right kind of methods such as brain training employed, there is no telling what the human brain can accomplish.